February 21, 2016

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police on Sunday released most of the men detained while attending military-style training at a suspect jihadi camp, as officials lamented weaknesses in the current anti-terrorism legislation that is due to be significantly strengthened following last month’s deadly attacks in Jakarta.

The elite anti-terrorism squad early Saturday detained 38 men at a suspected militant camp on the remote slopes of Mount Sumbing in Central Java province, said provincial police spokesman Col. Liliek Darmanto. Police seized air rifles, knives, and jihadi books and flags in the raid.

However, they were released early Sunday after 24-hour questioning as police were unable to prove a string of terrorism-related allegations, he said. “This is the weakness of our laws,” said Saud Usman Nasution, head of the anti-terrorism agency. “We cannot arrest before they have committed a crime even though we can detect a radical network.”

His agency has been pushing the government to strengthen the anti-terrorism law. It gained momentum following the Jan. 14 suicide and gun attacks in Jakarta, which left eight people dead, including four of the attackers.

In response to the attacks, Indonesia’s government submitted a new anti-terrorism law to parliament this past week. The draft bill, obtained by The Associated Press, says an individual suspected of plotting to carry out an act of terrorism could be detained for up to six months without charges. If approved, it would be the first time for such a tough measure to be enacted since the downfall of dictator Suharto in 1998.

Luhut Pandjaitan, a Cabinet minister in charge of security and political affairs, said he expected lawmakers to pass the revisions within the next two months. The bill would also become an offense for Indonesians to join a militant group overseas such as the Islamic State group, or recruit others, with a maximum imprisonment of seven years. It would also authorize the anti-terrorism squad to execute raids and arrest suspects for interrogation based solely on intelligence reports.

In addition to the Central Java raid, five other suspected militants were captured late Friday in Malang, a hilly city in East Java province, said local police chief Lt. Col. Yudho Nugroho. He said police were tipped about their whereabouts after interrogating alleged militants who were arrested on suspicion of links to the Jakarta attack. National police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti told lawmakers last week that police had arrested a total of 33 people in connection with the attack.

Among those arrested Friday was Nazarudin Mukhtar — also known as Abu Ghar. He is believed to have planned the Jakarta attack with Muhammad Ali and Afif Sunakin, who was fatally shot by by police when the two were trying to detonate a bomb in front of a Starbucks cafe, said Lt. Col. Arif Makhfudiharto, head of the anti-terrorism squad unit in West Java province.

Mukhtar, who had recently completed a prison sentence for his role in a deadly 2004 attack on a police station in Maluku province, “returned to his old ways,” Arif said. He alleged Mukhtar joined a new militant cell after visiting Abu Bakar Bashir and Aman Abdurrahman, the country’s most radical clerics who are now serving sentences on the Nusa Kambangan prison island.

Arif said that Mukhtar had pledged allegiance to Islamic State leaders.